A crowd of nearly 75 gathered in Lakeview Sunday afternoon to march from the Belmont Red Line station to the AIDS Garden Chicago in support of abortion rights, gun control and ending racial injustice and oppression.
Drag queen artist and activist Joe Lewis, who goes by the name Jo MaMa, started planning the Chicago Reclaim Pride March in 2020, but said it almost never happened.
“Our community came under a bit of fire when we created the Chicago Black Drag Council,” MaMa said. “We’ve had quite a few people make hate videos. My property was stolen. I was dosed more than once and woke up in a hospital room not knowing what was happening to me.”
But Mom said the setbacks are part of the cost and told the crowd there is a cost to making change.
“So be prepared to pay those costs,” she said.
The march was held by the Drag March for Change and Pride Without Prejudice.
Tricia Holloway, the trans health manager at Howard Brown Health Center, a nonprofit LGBTQ health and social services provider, encouraged protesters to continue to show up, gather and attend protests.
“It’s important for us to be represented in so many spaces where we’re not seen,” Holloway said. “There are acts of violence and controls around us every day, and I’m here to say we won’t be controlled and we won’t accept your violence.”
Stephanie Skora, the chief operating officer of Brave Space Alliance, agreed with Holloway’s message.
“We live, but we die, and we fight against that death,” Skora said. “For the people who aren’t used to showing up, or for the people who don’t show up until June, I want you to do a little better.”
One of the protesters, Sebastian Summers, said he was happy to come out and make a statement.
“This is my first drag march and I think it was great, and…in all the recent gun violence, I think this march has a newfound sense of urgency,” Summers said. “It’s so important what Jo has done here today for trans black lives, youth and the queer community here in Chicago.”
Miranda Lung, an old friend of Jo MaMa, described the march as impressive.
“I drove her home the day she thought of this, on her way back from a Black Lives Matter march in 2020,” Lung said. “It was so beautiful to see her bring our community together to celebrate black power and trans power and the power of us together.”
At the end of the march, Mama grabbed a picnic basket. Inside were packets of seeds for protesters to spread throughout the AIDS garden.
“Let’s see if they bloom next year and we’ll have flowers to pick and pass on to our next one,” Mom said. “I hope you can continue that work and keep your promises so we don’t have more system failures.”